County’s Master Plan Progressing

Several years ago, community members gathered to lay out goals to make Chautauqua County a more vibrant and thriving community.

In 2011, the Chautauqua 20/20 Comprehensive Plan was complete with 15 focus areas highlighted from tourism and agriculture to workforce development and infrastructure. Last year was the plan’s five-year anniversary as focus groups met to discuss the progress, and it proved to be beneficial for community stakeholders.

During his State of the County address in February, County Executive Vince Horrigan highlighted the progress witnessed since the plan’s creation. While there’s still more work ahead, Horrigan said he believes the county’s on track to be a thriving place to live, work and play.

“We’re well on our way to achieving the goals and objectives of the plan,” he said. “In the areas of economic development, I would say we’re making very good progress in terms of jobs and industry and retaining businesses. Probably the area that is challenging to us is workforce development. There are good jobs not only here now, but also coming to Chautauqua County in the years ahead.”

Within the business section of the plan, the focus group stressed the need for an aggressive approach to retain and attract companies. Specifically, business and economic development stakeholders should work to improve communication with their industry and more diverse groups including education and workforce training. The group also placed the need to continue marketing the current skilled workforce and quality of life in Chautauqua County.

As for workforce development, the focus group comprised of institutions and employment representatives said perceived gaps in the aging workforce must be addressed. Additionally, workforce development agencies and employers should develop a “Chautauqua County Value Package” to better market job opportunities to prospective employees both locally and outside the area.

Horrigan said they’re doing everything they can to make sure the right education, internship and workforce development programs are in place to meet workforce demands through 2020.

“We have good high schools and colleges here and there’s opportunities to live, work and play here,” Horrigan said. “If you’re a grandparent as I am, you see real opportunities for young families to move back in the area. I think that’s going to be the key factor as we expand our workforce development.”

The county executive also expressed pleasure with government restructuring efforts and regional solutions. The focus group comprised of local officials stressed the continuation and cultivation of inter-municipal relationships and creative thinking to bring new shared services and efficiencies.

“If you look at local governments, we really have some regional initiatives under way,” Horrigan said. “That’s something that’s been talked about for a long time and I would say that finally we’re making progress in that area.”

On the tourism side, waterfront development along Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake, the National Comedy Center and hotel developments will look to bring in visitors. Along with development, promoting the attractions by the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau is an important piece to the puzzle.

“It’s easier for us to promote attractions over the long term if there’s more of them,” said Andy Nixon, executive director for the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau. “There’s the DoubleTree project in Jamestown, which will house visitors going to the National Comedy Center. Those projects will bring additional development ideas to the Jamestown area.”

The progress report also details infrastructure development and specifically adding passing and turning lanes on Route 60 between Dunkirk and Gerry. In the environment and waste management category, the focus group stressed a need to continue implementing a master plan for the expansion of the County Landfill to achieve 20-30 year viability.

On the historic preservation side, the progress report details the need to strengthen promotion of sites to tourists by working with the county Visitor’s Bureau to map and package attractions. In the housing category, the progress report details increasing code enforcement compliance countywide by working with local code enforcement officers and judges.